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Journal of Cold War Studies 1.2 (1999) 121-123

Book Review

The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--The Stalin Era

Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--The Stalin Era. New York: Random House, 1999. 402 pp.

Based on documents from the archive of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), The Haunted Wood provides highly valuable information about Soviet espionage in the 1930s and 1940s. Some of the information is entirely unexpected, such as the revelation that U.S. Representative Samuel Dickstein was bribed by Soviet intelligence operatives in the late 1930s. Most of the spies discussed, however, are familiar names to those steeped in the controversies over Communism and espionage in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This does not in any way diminish the value of the book. Many historians writing in the last several decades believed that the suspected spies were actually innocent, the martyred victims of a ghastly McCarthyist nightmare. Weinstein's and Vassiliev's book will help dispel that myth.

In late 1945 Elizabeth Bentley, who had worked for a predecessor of the Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB), told the FBI of several dozen U.S. government employees who had provided information to Soviet intelligence. Most were mid-level officials, but several were highly placed: Harry White, the influential assistant secretary of the Treasury; Lauchlin Currie, one of Franklin Roosevelt's senior assistants; and Duncan Lee, an aide to the head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency). Although some historians believed Bentley's accusations, numerous others dismissed them as unfounded, deriding Bentley as "the blond spy queen." Weinstein's and Vassiliev's documents confirm that those she named were in fact spies.

A number of historians, including some of prominence, have also refused to believe that Laurence Duggan, the head of the State Department's Division of the American Republics in the late 1930s and early 1940s, was a Soviet spy. Duggan fell to his death from his office window in 1948, nine days after the FBI had questioned him about his ties to Soviet intelligence. Some scholars have depicted Duggan's death as a tragedy--an innocent civil servant driven to suicide by paranoid anti-Communists. Weinstein and Vassiliev show that Duggan had indeed been a spy in the 1930s and early 1940s. Soviet intelligence officials lost contact with him at the end of World War II but attempted to reestablish links in 1948. By sheer coincidence they contacted him four days after the FBI interview, which suggests that his suicide reflected both his fear of FBI exposure and his apprehension that the Soviet Union would pressure him to continue his espionage activities. [End Page 121]

The Haunted Wood provides interesting new information about a number of other espionage cases. It shows, for example, that Alger Hiss's spying continued into the 1940s; it details the KGB's success in developing sources within the OSS; and it describes the extensive cooperation of the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA) with Soviet espionage. The book also furnishes needed additional documentation about the espionage of Julius Rosenberg and his network of engineers working in military electronics and aviation; the Soviet Union's nuclear spies, including young Communists Theodore Hall and David Greenglass; the wealthy socialites Martha and Alfred Stern; and other matters.

Many histories of the 1940s and early 1950s are predicated on three assumptions: that Soviet espionage was neither extensive nor serious, that the CPUSA did not significantly aid Soviet espionage, and that no senior government officials betrayed the United States. The Haunted Wood adds mightily to the growing evidence that all three of these assumptions are mistaken. As a result, the historical context of postwar anti-Communism in the United States must be rewritten. Diplomatic history is also affected. By the end of the 1940s leading American policy makers had learned of the astounding breadth of the Soviet espionage network. This awareness inevitably colored their perception of Soviet intentions.

According to Weinstein, his publisher paid the association of...

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